Judge O. John Kuenhold announces his retirement from the bench

From the Valley Courier (Julia Wilson):

Kuenhold first appeared in the Valley in 1969 as a Vista volunteer. “I had hair then; I wore it in a ponytail,” he said. “I was sent here for training. Then, with other volunteers, we opened the Colorado Rural Legal Services office.”[…]

Kuenhold saw law as a way to right the wrongs in society. “I thought if I went into law I could help people,” Kuenhold said. “It was the time of [Martin Luther King, Jr.] and (President John) Kennedy. I wanted to do good for my country. Law seemed to be the best way to use the skills and gifts I’d been given.”[…]

Two of his cases had unexpected bonuses. A water case led not only to his interest in the Valley water interests, but also to his status as the premiere water judge in Colorado. The second case led to a hobby: flying.

Here’s a short bio from the Colorado Judicial Performance website. Good luck Judge Kuenhold.

More water law coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: Judge Roger Hyatt denies CDPHE and Cotter, Corp’s motion to dismiss lawsuit over Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site cleanup

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From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

Colorado Citizens Against ToxicWaste (CCAT) filed a lawsuit last year trying to get the state to compel Cotter Corp. to establish an aggressive cleanup plan at the EPA Superfund site and provide twice as much in financial assurance to back the project.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and Cotter both asked the court to dismiss the case, questioning CCAT’s legal standing. On Friday, District Court Judge Robert Hyatt rejected that motion.

“After considering all of Plaintiffs allegations in the complaint to be true this Court finds a sufficient showing that the Plaintiff is entitled to relief and the Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(5) is DENIED,” District Court Judge Robert Hyatt wrote.

“Instead of telling us that we don’t have an interest in the radioactive contamination of our water and air, the department ought to be working with the public to protect our environment and health. It is regrettable that CDPHE has taken Cotter’s side to keep Colorado citizens out of the decision process,” said Sharyn Cunningham, a CCAT co-chair whose own well water was contaminated by the Cotter Mill.

More coverage from Tracy Harmon writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Cotter Corp. has agreed to increase the cleanup bond to $20.8 million from $14.7 million this month to cover the cost of decommissioning the entire mill when it closes. The state estimates the cleanup will cost about $43.7 million, while Cotter estimates it would be $23.2 million.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Scientists at the University of Colorado say that beetle-kill could lead to deeper snowpacks

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (Laura Snider):

The researchers compared the amount of snow that piled up on the ground under live trees to the snow depth under two kinds of dead trees: those that still had red pine needles on their branches and those that had lost all their needles. The tree stands, which were located in the same valley near Grand Lake, had comparable elevations, slopes and aspects.

The scientists found that the snow accumulation under the dead, needle-less trees was 15 percent more than the snow under both live trees and dead trees in the “red phase,” when the needles are still attached.

Evan Pugh, a CU doctoral student who led the study, said trees with needles — red or green — are able to intercept the snow before it hits the ground. The snow that sticks to the needles is often returned to the atmosphere as water vapor via the process of sublimation, when a solid turns directly into a gas without becoming a liquid first.

“That water doesn’t stick around until snowmelt,” Pugh said.

Pugh and Eric Small, co-author of the study published in the journal Ecohydrology, also found that the snow under trees in the “red phase” melted up to a week earlier than the snow under healthy trees. The researchers believe the difference is caused by needles and branches falling onto the snow under red-phase trees. Those needles and branches absorb heat from the sun and reduce the snow’s reflectivity, causing the snow to melt more quickly.

The amount of runoff that comes from the snowpack in stands of dead trees is also higher than the amount of runoff from a similar snowpack under stands of live trees.

USGS Study Finds Recent Snowpack Declines in the Rocky Mountains Unusual Compared to Past Few Centuries

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From the Loveland Connection (Bobby Magill):

Using tree ring samples to reconstruct the size of mountain snowpack over the past millennium, USGS researchers were able to show that reductions in the size of the mountain snowpack across the West during the past 30 years is unusual when considering the size of the mountain snowpack each year during the past three centuries…

There was an “inflection point” in the 1980s when the size of a given year’s snowpack was more influenced by temperature than by amount of precipitation, said USGS research scientist Gregory Pederson, lead author of the study, “The Unusual Nature of Recent Snowpack Declines in the North American Cordillera.”[…]

“The region you are sitting in is a particularly dynamic one,” he said. “These basins haven’t shown the substantial temperature-driven declines since the 1980s. (Colorado’s northern mountains) seem fairly resistant to fairly extensive snowpack decline like you see across the Northern Rockies.”

Upper Arkansas River Water Conservancy District board meeting recap: Glenn Everett, the last remaining original member of the district, makes way for new board

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Salida City Councilman Jay Moore was appointed to fill the Division 2 (School District R-32-J) directorship vacated by Everett. Moore and three re-appointed directors were sworn in at the meeting.

The re-appointed directors are:

• Tim Canterbury, Division 1 – area encompassed by School District RE-3.

• Bob Senderhauf, Division 4 – Custer County.

• John Sandefur, Division 6, Seat B – area encompassed by School District RE-2, excluding the part of RE-2 within Custer County.

After the swearing in, Bob Senderhauf was elected chairman, Tim Canterbury was elected vice chairman, Greg Felt was re-elected secretary, and Jim McCormick was re-elected treasurer. The new officers all expressed appreciation for Everett’s service to the conservancy district…

District Manager Terry Scanga discussed preliminary efforts to form a coalition in the Upper Arkansas Valley to construct new water storage vessels or enlarge existing ones. “It’s time to formalize that coalition and move forward,” Scanga said, based on the need for augmentation plans in the upper Arkansas basin.

More Upper Arkansas River Water Conservancy District coverage here.

Runoff news: The North Fork of the Gunnison River is at 4,070 cfs

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From the Delta County Independent (Hank Lohmeyer):

Other local streams are being affected also. Late last week, there was deep snowpack holding over two feet of water content at Park Reservoir, which flows into the Surface Creek drainage. On Monday, Bob Hurford, Division 4 water engineer, said, “Surface Creek has been flowing about 300 cfs, and a lot more is coming. That could go to 700 or 800 cfs very quickly.” The North Fork of the Gunnison River has had flows of 4,500 cfs already this year, Hurford said. Average flows this time of year are less than 2,000 cfs, he added.

The Uncompahgre River drainage is like others in the basin. “We expect well above 2,000 cfs flowing into Ridgway Reservoir this year,” Hurford said. Ridgway reservoir was standing at almost three-fourths full beginning this week. “All of the reservoirs in the Gunnison Basin (Taylor Park, Ridgway, Silverjack, Paonia, and Crawford) will fill this year,” said BuRec’s Crabtree. Gunnison Basin snowpack levels have averaged 125 percent of average with moisture content readings over 200 percent of average.

From The Greeley Tribune (Mike Peters):

The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office placed a ban on all inflatable boats and tubes on the [Cache la Poudre River] until the waters recede. While kayakers and commercial rafting businesses are not affected by the ban, use of tubes and inflatable rafts could result in a $100 fine.

From the Aspen Daily News (Dorothy M. Atkins):

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released $600,000 in emergency funds to mitigate the flooding risk in Colorado. “The release of these emergency funds is a proactive way to be prepared to protect lives, property, and land and water resources as rivers across the state threaten to spill over their banks,” said U.S. Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) in a press release.